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How Colors in Business Dashboards Affect Users' Decision Making

How Colors in Business Dashboards Affect Users' Decision Making, illustration


Business dashboards help users visually identify trends, patterns, and anomalies in order to make effective decisions.1 Dashboards often use a variety of colors to differentiate and identify objects.2 Although using colors might improve visualization, overuse or misuse can distract users and adversely affect decision making. This article tests this effect with the help of eye-tracking technology.

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Key Insights


The bar charts in Figure 1 reflect sales of office-supply products. The bars in the left-hand chart are uniform in color, and the relative height is the only salient information source. However, the chart on the right uses a different color for each bar, and the variation in both height and color could be perceived as different information. As a general principle, color variation should reflect value variation.9 Use of colors can needlessly attract viewers' attention, causing them to search for meaning that is not there.3


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